Dear Seth and Chad,
If you’d been blasted out of the sky by an electromagnetic anomaly, chased by a polar bear and a smoke monster, buffeted through time tunnels, seen the dead come alive, viewed the past through a funhouse mirror in a lighthouse, seen your comrades subject to gross human experimentation, and all the while sustained yourself on airdrops of provisions from a mysterious organization—and that’s just for starters—don’t you think you’d be a little bit more curious about fitting all the clues together than the survivors of Oceanic 815 are?
No one seems a tenth as curious about how it all fits together as even a casual fan (like me). Tonight’s episode, “Dr. Linus,” continues Lost’s six-season tradition of marching the characters through the greatest mystery man has even encountered as if they were stick figures on an 8½-by-11-inch piece of paper. It’s all about whatever is in the foreground. For example, Miles seems content to take Ilana’s orders, never bothering to sort out even rudimentary mysteries about the island, like what it is and why it’s doing what it’s doing.
The characters who appear to be in possession of greater knowledge about the meaning of the island—Daniel Faraday and Ben Linus, to name two—have never been grilled about why the island summoned these specific people or what happened to the children who survived the crash and were kidnapped by the Others or why ghosts appear to Hurley or what the deeper meaning of the magical number sequence is or why Richard Alpert wears eye liner. Even the characters in cheap mystery novels speculate about who did what to whom and why. I’ve seen an officemate burn more mental firepower on figuring out who stole his last Diet Coke than any of the Oceanic 815 survivors have directed at the dozens of life-or-death enigmas they face.
“Where did you come from?” Dr. Jack asks Richard when he pops out of the jungle in last’s night’s episode.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Richard replies.
“Try me,” says Dr. Jack.
“Not yet,” says Richard.
And Dr. Jack lets it die there. Then when Hurley asks Richard how it is that he can look the same age as he did 30 years ago, Richard says, “It’s not easy to explain” and “Jacob gave me a gift.” And they drop it! Even Richard, who initially expresses amazement at the fact that Hurley has been talking to Jacob, drops the subject and marches toward the Black Rock wreck where he intends to commit assisted suicide. Again, when Richard comments inside the Black Rock that the gift Jacob bestowed upon him is really a curse, Dr. Jack and Hurley remain vacant. How stupid are these characters?
This sort of open-option plotting may have made sense in the first couple of years of the show when the survivors had been on the island for only a few weeks or a couple of months and the writers needed to sustain the mystery. But as you note, Seth, we’re a third of the way through the final season, and Lost’s visionaries seem to be making little headway toward imposing closure and meaning onto their creation.
Setting my usual carping aside, the episode did treat us to a reimagining of the Ben Linus character in both his “sideways” existence back in Los Angeles and on the island. The stinkiest, most double-crossing villain in the series seems to experience a resurrection of his soul that’s 12 times as dramatic as any of the dead-men-walking who’ve cluttered Lost. Michael Emerson, who plays Ben, should be drafted into a production of Richard III in which he can play the lead role as soon as is contractually possible.
Because Lost seems uninterested in providing pointers as to where it’s going, let me offer this speculation. The only way to resolve the show and give viewers their sanity back will be to impose some grand metaphysical order on the divergent events. I suspect that we’ll learn that the island occupies some sacred time and sacred place that’s connected to the origin of the universe.
Two random shots before I pass the ball to Professor Lost himself, Chadwick Matlin. 1) What do we deduce from the fact that the island won’t let Dr. Jack dynamite himself to death, aside from him being a “candidate,” of course? And 2) did you notice that Mario Van Peebles directed the episode? I thought it looked more cinematic than the usual Lost, especially the noirish double-suicide attempt scene inside the Black Rock. What say you?